For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. [Romans 8:7-8 (ESV)].
The primary purpose of our fasting is to enhance awareness of the Divine Reality. To be successful, we must also integrate abstinence into our recreation and relaxation. When they compete with our piety, we must find ways to harness them. In short, our fasting must avoid as much media interference as possible.
We must endeavor to awake within ourselves, from time to time, the desire of being devoted to God in all the extent of our powers; in our intellect, to know him and think on him, and in our will, to love him. We must desire too, that our outward senses may be consecrated to him in all their operations.
Let us be careful how we voluntarily engage, either externally or internally, in matters which cause such distraction of the will and intellect, and so draw them out of themselves that they find difficulty in re-entering and finding God. [Francois Fenelon].
Electronic media, including news, movies, music, television and video games, tend to dominate our leisure time and relaxation. Culturally ingrained, they have become not only acceptable but necessary.
How do we get electronic images out of our mind? How can we control technology and media to serve our spiritual objectives?
More than 100 years after William James suggested that attention makes an object “clear and vivid,” Carrasco provided experimental evidence that attention does, in fact, enhance the appearance of an object…. [A]ttending to an object brings it to the forefront of our consciousness and may even alter its appearance. Furthermore, not attending to an object can cause us to miss it altogether. [E. B. Goldstein, Sensation and Perception, p. 143].
In our hectic modern existence, we have few moments for tranquil contemplation. The ever-intrusive media steals what little time we may store away for reflection and profound thinking.
Read what Chapter, or Doctrine of Scripture you will, be ever so delighted with it, it will leave you as poor, as empty and unreformed as it found you, unless it be a Delight that proceeds from, and has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and strengthened your Union with and Dependence upon Him. [William Law, An Humble, Earnest, and Affectionate Address to the Clergy].
When strengthening our spiritual resolve by fasting, every aspect of our life must participate in the struggle. Social, professional, intellectual and recreational activities must be in harmony with our ultimate goal of pleasing God.
The “divine service” is not a thing of a few hours and a few places, but all life becomes holiness unto the Lord, and every place and thing, as consecrated as the tabernacle and its golden candlestick. [Charles Haddon Spurgeon].
While fasting, we must remain attentive to all influences that weaken our discipline and devoutness. We are particularly vulnerable when we relax after a stressful day. At such times, we may seek comfort and ease in something enjoyable, pleasant or playful.
Unfortunately, what is available may also be detrimental to our spiritual goal. Our acquiescent involvement in electronic media diminishes our enthusiastic participation in worship. We find ourselves unable to separate entertainment from devotions.
There are many in formation [spiritual training] who have an inordinate desire to use the electronic media for relaxation and recreation. They feed themselves with electronic data while they cannot be satiated. This may be adjoined to a passive lifestyle, lacking moderation in food or drink. This is indeed a new portrait of gluttony. [Sister Prudence Allen, Formation in an Electronic Age].
Making Waves in Our Worship
Technology has become so overpowering, so pervasive and dominant, that many can no longer worship God without modern electronic contrivances. Our religious services must now be entertaining. We need multimedia presentations patterned after rock concerts and Super Bowl half-time shows.
The mind is excitable and unsteady; it is difficult to control and to restrain. The wise one trains his mind to be upright as a fletcher straightens an arrow. As a fish quivers when taken out of its watery home and thrown onto dry ground, so does the mind quiver when it is taken out of the sensual world to escape from the realm of Mara (the Tempter). [Dhammapada 33-34].
Intoxicating and addictive, media can numb our mind and deluge our spiritual awareness. Its pervasive frivolity lasts long after we leave it, and it takes us far from the goal of our fasting.
. . . let us place everything in His hands once and for all, leaving them to His infinite wisdom; and trouble no more about anything but what concerns Him. On then, my soul, on with head uplifted above earthly things, always satisfied with God, with everything He does, or makes you do. Take good care not to imprudently entertain a crowd of anxious reflections which, like so many trackless ways, carry our footsteps far and wide until we are hopelessly astray. Let us go through that labyrinth of self-love by leaping over it, instead of traversing its interminable windings. [Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Chapter II. The Duties of Those Souls Called by God to the State of Abandonment].
Spiritual awareness requires dedicated attention to the Divine. When we pray, study, or meditate, our attention must focus on an unseen, intangible, spiritual reality.
It is not by change of place that we can come nearer to Him who is in every place, but by the cultivation of pure desires and virtuous habits. [St. Augustine].
Electronic media offer many positive innovations in education, journalism, research and social networking. However, during our fasting, the media often impedes piety and obstructs sacredness. Our fasting should not become a vicarious experience, a digital exercise produced by virtual emotions.
Can then one who is on a clear (Path) from his Lord be likened unto one to whom the evil of his own doings [always] seems goodly, and unto such as would follow their own lusts? [Quran 47:14].
- Fasting Prep: the Best of Intentions
- The Fasting Mind: Treating Addiction to Technology & Media
- Fasting, the Media and Our Mind